Our Digital Season Week 5: South Carolina at Kentucky

It's week 5 of our year-long EA Sports NCAA Football 13 simulation of the entire 2012 football season. While the tether of realism binding ODS and reality is beginning to fray, one parallel remains: both the DigiCocks and the real team are undefeated. On to Lexington...

Four weeks in, and life has yet again imitated Electronic Art. The flesh'n'blood Gamecocks rolled Mizzou in a decidedly more lopsided affair than its digital facsimile. Let's have a look at the balance sheet:

ODS GOT IT RIGHT: While it isn't perfect, how can you not be a bit amazed that DigiShaw went 19-21 against Missouri, a single completion removed from the actual 20-21 mark Connor posted Saturday?

ODS GOT IT WRONG: In ODS, our fearless signal-caller was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Glad to say this wasn't the case IRL.

RIGHT: Early fumbles. In last week's ODS, the subtitle of the first quarter was "Let's get ready to fumble" due to a costly fumble by each squad. Indeed, both teams coughed one up within the first 20 minutes of the real game (USC fell on the Missouri fumble with 10:46 left in the 2nd.)

WRONG: Lattimore didn't quite rack up 157 yards on the ground (although he did rush for those 2 touchdowns ODS predicted.)

RIGHT: ODS called it: Kansas State over Oklahoma, Florida State over Clemson, and Georgia big over Vandy. The last one isn't all that surprising, I suppose. To date, ODS has accurately predicted the records of 4 SEC East teams: Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee, and your South Carolina Gamecocks.

WRONG: After an impressive first two weeks, point differential is now heavily skewed. Through four games, reality Gamecocks are +38 on the DigiCocks.

The Gamecocks will play a 3-1 Kentucky team [ed: lolz] coming off an ugly loss to Florida. As I'm sure absolutely no one will point out this week, the last time the Gamecocks were in Lexington, things didn't end well. Will the DigiCocks of 2012 fare better?

Usclogo_mediumKentuckylogo_medium

Kentucky wins the toss and, as is apparently de rigueur in ODS, elect to kick.

FIRST QUARTER, or, ODS HATES GEORGIA OR MAYBE IT'S THE REAL US THEY HATE

After the opening kickoff, there's a studio cut-in: Reese Davis informs us that unranked Tennessee gone to Athens and upset #11 Georgia. WHY? Why does this game taunt us so? The DigiDawgs now have TWO conference losses.

The Gamecocks push forward on their opening drive, moving into Kentucky territory before stalling at the 43. On 4th and 5 and in go-for-it territory, Carolina will punt, drawing boos from the visitor section. Tyler Hull legs it through the back of the end zone.

The DigiCats manage a lone first down but ultimately punt it back. Jump to 3rd and 13. Shaw drops back and fires at DeAngelo Smith over the middle, who has to lay out to pull it in, but in doing so picks up 16! The big play silences the crowd. Once again the Cocks find themselves in UK territory on 4th down, and this time they'll go for it. Handoff is to Kenny Miles, and he's dropped behind the line—turnover on downs. UK gets it on their own 40.

The game has existed mostly between the 40s, and will continue to do so, as USC forces a 4th down on the 42. DigiJoker, who I like to think of as this, sends his poor kicker out for the 59 yard field goal attempt. You read that right.

The kick is up and—shocker—falls short. Now USC has it in their own territory.

After a pitch play gets swallowed up because pitches simply don't work in this game, it's 2nd and 15. Shaw hits Justice Cunningham over the middle. He gets a huge block from DeAngelo Smith—and there's open grass ahead! A speedy DB has to cut over drag him down at the 20. Shaw, showing no ill effects from his concussion, hits Smith for 6. Then a give to Lattimore, who breaks a tackle in the backfield and runs for 7, picking up the first down inside the 10.

Another draw to Latty goes nowhere—and hold your breath, because he's down. He'll come out of the game—is it severe, or another false alarm? Kenny Miles is in. Zone read, and Shaw keeps it! He totally fools the UK defense, as he's able to casually stroll into the endzone, no doubt thankful DigiMatulis decided not to chop block a bitch. It's 7-0, DigiCocks, and that play ends the quarter.

SECOND QUARTER, or, ZZZZZZZZZZZZ OH HEY POINTS

Kentucky goes 3-and-out and will punt it weakly to the 50. Lattimore's back in, thankfully, but he can't get anything going, nor can any member of the DigiCocks offense. Punt. Then UK punts back. Then Shaw gets hammered and fumbles it. Then UK punts again. Then we punt it back to them. Say, any other games on?

Hey, lookie here: Baylor has upset #6 West Va, meaning the Cocks could move up!

Anyway, back to this brutally boring game. But hey, Kentucky decides to mount a drive. Matt Smith goes underneath to EJ Fields for a gain of 12. It's 3rd and 4. Handoff to Josh Clemons*, and it's a good call. They gain 7 and a 1st down. Pass plays of 8 and 10 yards keep the chains moving with just under 3 minutes left in this sleeper of a half. The next pass is tipped, and falls into Devon Taylor's lap—but, he can't hang on. 2nd and 10. After a blitzing Brison Williams sacks Smith, it's 3rd and 14. Smith hits his man down the line—ruled out of bounds!

But the booth will review it, and it's soon thereafter overturned, drawing the ire of DigiSpurrier. On the next play, Smith hits Fields in the back of the endzone for a 25 yarrd touchdown strike. It's 7-7 with 2:07 left in the half.

Hampton's return is a good one, but Jerrell Adams is called for holding, and it'll move the ball back to the 11 yard line. Shaw hits Shaq Roland for 15 yards, then scrambles for 3. Next is a pass to Ace for 16, then a scramble for 9. Hey, this is starting to look like a functional offense! The DigiCocks are moving at will with just over a minute left. Again, Shaw finds room to scramble, this time picking up 16 yards. Timeout is taken. After another nice scramble, Connor finds DeAngelo Smith for a 21 yard strike! It's now 14-7 Cocks, with :37 seconds left. Impressive drive led by DigiShaw to respond to the UK score.

The kick is taken out to the 22. The reeling 'Cats will try to get something out of the remaining half minute. Jump to 3rd and 9 with :22 remaining. Smith launches a bomb—it's caught by Fields, and he gets out of bounds. First and 10 on the 11 yard line with :17 left. Smith tries to scramble, but makes little ground. The DigiCats will settle for a field goal. It's 14-10, Gamecocks. That'll take us to the half.

* Remember Josh Clemons? He went down against us last year. Hasn't played this year, and is likely to redshirt. But as always, I'll mention ODS injuries/redshirts exist independently of real life circumstances.

1st HALF STATS:

Shaw: 7-9, 124 YDS, 1 TD, 11 rushes, 59 yards, 1 TD
Lattimore: 15 rushes, 40 yards.
D. Smith: 4 rec, 59 yards, 1 TD.
Holloman: 5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

The offense has shown flashes of brilliance, but overall has been ineffective. Shaw is putting together a nice game, but this Kentucky team is going to make him earn the win. The DigiCocks have been a 2nd half team this season—will it continue?

THIRD QUARTER, or, ZZZZZZZZZZZZ (PART 2)

UK strings together a nice drive to start out the half: They push into SC territory, but consecutive losses and an incomplete make for a 4th and long at midfield. A huge stop, and UK will have no choice but to punt on 4th and 20. The punt flirts with bouncing out of bounds deep, but meanders into the end zone for a touchback.

Nothing doing for the Cocks, and they'll punt yet again—Tyler Hull's getting his reps tonight. On 1st down, it's a full on blitz, and Damario Jeffery makes the sack. On the ensuing play, the handoff is to Coshik Williams who takes it for 4. (By the way, Clemons will miss most if not all of the rest of the game. Williams has the higher rating in NCAA 13, but he's not the listed starter.) It's 3rd and 12. The Cocks only rush 3, and Smith has plenty of time to find a wide open Gene McCaskill at the 41. A huge 3rd down conversion for the Cats. But UK can only net 9 yards on the next three plays It's 4th and 1 on the 44—4 down territory? No. Kentucky shows punt.

The snap—it's a fake! Punter Landon Foster will throw it, but he puts the ball 5 yards over the head of his target, out of bounds (surely he didn't just throw it away, did he? Perhaps The Algorithms willed it to be so.) At any rate, it's a deflating failure and the Cocks take over.

First and 10 on the USC 44. Carolina picks up a few rather pedestrian first downs, and is well into UK territory. Just under 2 minutes left in the quarter, we'll jump to 3rd and 8. Lattimore splits off, so it's a 4 wide set. And lo and behold, Latty is completely unguarded! Shaw hits Latty streaking down the sideline. He's dropped on the 7 yard line, good for a gain of 18. First and goal. Short gains on 1st and 2nd, and that's how the quarter will end. For the second consecutive week, no points in the third quarter.

4th Quarter, or, WHAT DID ADAM YATES DO TO DESERVE THIS

The digital players flip to the other end of the field—since they're video game characters, I assume they utilize the Raiden teleport from Mortal Kombat. Shaw takes the snap. He hits DL Smith, but the hit is made on the 1 yard line, and he won't score. It's 4th and goal on the 1, and the offense is out! Give to Lattimore—Kentucky's bringing the house at him! But Latty gets off tackle, and it's a touchdown. A gutty call by DigiSpurrier pays off. 21-10, Gamecocks. It's breathing room, but it's still a 2-score game with almost 10 minutes remaining.

Kickoff returned to the 24. Kentucky needs a big drive here, but they'll not get it—4th and 13, and they'll have to punt. (Will they fake again? No.) Ace takes it for a fair catch at the 36 yard line.

The Cocks will look to drain the clock. On 1st and 10 it's an option. Shaw runs it beautifully, pitching to Latty a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. It's good for a gain of 15—yards that will all go to Lattimore's total, which is in desperate need of inflation. Shaw drops back and hits a steadily-heating Marcus on the checkdown. On 3rd and 3, Shaw drops back and scrambles around the scrum, dragged down just shy of the 1st down line. Go for it, right? No...must be a punt. Sure, pin 'em deep. Wait, what? Field goal unit? The Adam Yates kick from 56 is no good, and it gives UK the ball on their own 39.

On 1st down, Smith rolls out, but Devin Taylor is there to make the sack for a big loss. UK's offense is flatlining at the wrong time. After a 5 yard gain on the ground, it's 3rd and 13. Smith drops back and gets excellent protection. Hits McCaskill for 19. On the ensuing play, Smith waits too long in the pocket, and it's Taylor there again. Sack. The next play is a screen pass, but the D reads it well and it's only good for 2. Once again, it's 3rd and 13.

Smith is going to air one out to King, but it's swatted down by Swearinger. UK is going for it on 4th and 13, which, with 7 minutes left, seems to be a needlessly risky call. The pass is complete, but Damario Jeffery—having a very good game, by the way—levels the receiver, forcing a fumble that he's able to pull in. The fumble and recovery are immaterial, as it would have been a turnover on downs anyway.

The Cocks will take it from the 44 yard line. As expected, the attack is run-heavy, although the plays are occurring at a fairly rapid clip. Pass to Lattimore is good for 8, and it's first down. Zone read is given to Latty, but Shaw shoulda kept it, as Marcus dropped for a loss of 2. Shaw hits Ace for a gain of 2, followed by an incompletion on the attempted screen pass. It stops the clock. Poor Adam Yates, his Groza hopes going up in flames, is called on for a 57 yard field goal. Again, no good, almost identical to the last one. So UK is given another chance, based on some horrible decisions by the coaching staff. What is this, a video game?

Just over 3 minutes remain, and the USC defense isn't bending. Jump to 4th and 9 at the UK 45 yard line. Smith drops back and arcs one towards the endzone. DJ Fields has a shot at it, but it bounces off his outstretched hands. And, for some reason, DJ Swearinger decides NOW is the time to make the most acrobatic pick you'll ever see. But instead of it being 1st and 10 at the 45, it's 1st and 10 at the 4 yard line. Uh...he got turnt?

Anyway, it's a give to Latty, good for 5, and UK will start burning timeouts. Latty takes the next handoff for 4, bringing up a crucial 3rd and 1 as UK uses another timeout. Shaw drops back, and as expected, he'll scramble for and get the first. UK is forced to use their final timeout. No matter; this one's over.

Gamecocks win in Lexington, 21-10.

FINAL STATS:

Shaw: 14-17, 170 yards, 1 TD, 17 rushes, 90 yards, 1 TD, Player of the Game
Lattimore: 32 rushes, 98 (damn!) yards, 1 TD, 5 receptions, 37 yards
Smith: 5 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD.
Holloman: 11 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack
Taylor: 6 tackles, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks

INJURIES: None

WEEKLY HONORS: Damario Jeffery wins SEC Defensive Player of the Week with 7 tackles, 4 TFL, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Damario is the 3rd different DigiCock to win SEC Defensive POTW honors (Taylor and Quarles.)

UP NEXT: Georgia. IRL, this will be perhaps our biggest game of the season. In ODS, Georgia is hanging by a thread. I'm sure UGA fans are inconsolable.

AROUND THE DigiNCAA

DigiSEC STANDINGS: What with it being week 5 and conference play heating up, we take a look at the standings:

USC, at 3-0, is on top of the East, but Florida is 2-0 and very much a factor. Everyone in the East else has at least 1 conference loss. Vandy, Kentucky and Georgia have 2.

Out West, it's the usual suspects: Bama and LSU are undefeated in conference, and everyone else has one loss, with only Arkansas and Auburn (lol at both) sporting conference wins.

SCORES OF NOTE:

Arkansas 48 - TAMU 24
Tennessee 23 - Georgia 7 - UGA Suffers its 2nd SEC loss, falls to 5th in the East. Damn this game.
Alabama 21 - Ole Miss 16 - #1 team in the land flirts with an upset.

INJURIES OF NOTE: Georgia will be without LT K. Gates, RT W. Dantzler, WR T. King and FS B. Rambo for the game at the DigiBrice next week. That's a pretty significant roster depletion.

Conclusion:

This game reminds me a bit of our win over Mississippi State last year. SEC road wins are always worth celebrating, but sometimes you don't walk away with a good taste in your mouth. Sometimes, it's because your Heisman-caliber running back gets his knee blown out. Other times, an underwhelming offensive display a week before an enormous game, which makes for a week's worth of nerves. Such was the case in this week 5 of ODS, as an overmatched DigiCat squad hung with the DigiCocks. But, take solace in the fact that Kentucky is a far better team in ODS than they are in real life. Then abandon said solace, because UGA most definitely isn't sporting two conferences losses as they are in ODS.

Be sure to swing back next week for the battle with the DigiDawgs which I've actually already simulated. (TEASER: Point total is 95.)

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